Friday, January 1, 2010

Stephen King’s New Epic: Under the Dome

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
Whenever Stephen King comes out with a new book, it seems Maine stops in its tracks to take notice. Never forgetting his roots in the state, his books are filled with local references, figures of speech, and scenery evocative of small town life. Upon the release of Under the Dome, before having a tour in all the major cities, King came to Bridgeton, Maine to sign books and celebrate with the community that inspired his creation of Chester’s Mill.
Chester’s Mill is a small working class town complete with old grudges, trapped citizens who never find their way out, and filthy politics. The police, town council and even clergy are bound by their own corruption and blackmail. When the town pariah, Barbie (Dale Barbara), finally decided he was finished with this place, a strange thing happened, he looked up to watch a plane fly over head, and at that moment, it spontaneously crashed with no apparent cause.
All along the town line people perished by crashing into this invisible wall, and when it came down it maimed countless people who were merely gardening on their property that ran along town lines. Even with the nation’s eye on the town, the people on the outside still had no idea what happens on the inside.
The dome became a lid for this pressure cooker. Almost immediately old factions aligned, and King referenced a scenario from Lord of the Flies where society flips to where the most animalistic personalities take control. After the dome, the police chief taps his son with sociopathic tendencies and his group of misfits to patrol the town. Needless to say, the word terrorize and brutalize is more the word.
Barbie never made it out, and has no choice but to try and help solve this dome mystery. The local journalist, the former chief’s widow, and a handful of middle school kids work together to try and find out just what this dome is before the propane for generators, and the sanity of the town runs completely empty.
Considering the overview this review provides doesn’t do justice to all of the subplots and intrigue in this book, many people are using the word “Epic” when describing King’s latest work. While it is hipper and more relevant than most epics, this word best describes this miraculous work of fiction. Only the greatest mind in American letters could conceive of a story as deep, intriguing and terrifying as this.
Many horror and science fiction writers settle on a page turner that reveals thrill after bloody thrill, and these authors often build distracting back stories to draw out the suspense. King’s writing requires neither of these tactics, even at the 1100 page count. Every citizen’s back story feeds deeply into the plot, and through most of the book, figuring out what the dome is doesn’t even matter as much as the story going on within it. The reader wants to know the situations Barbie and all of the players have gotten into, and what will come of their actions. Sometimes, the characters even surprise the reader when they do something uncharacteristic giving them all a very human color.
King’s portrayal of small town America and the middle and lower class has elevated him to what John Lennon would call “a working class hero.” Under the Dome is a devastating, poignant, funny and masterful political satire that will wedge the legendary author firmly between H.G. Wells and Mark Twain.
Photo caption: Book cover of Stephen King’s newest novel "Under the Dome".